GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Three months after losing blue-chip quarterback Jaden Rashada over a failed name, image and likeness deal worth nearly $14 million, the University of Florida is taking advantage of a new state law that allows colleges and coaches to facilitate NIL opportunities.
A fundraising collective launched Tuesday, called Florida Victorious, will be able to work with the university to raise money and fund NIL deals for student-athletes. The state law passed in February gives Florida colleges a step up on some of the competition around the country, allowing universities to work directly with booster-run and financed collectives that have mostly been operating as third parties.
That was the case for the Gator Collective, the third-party NIL group that had been working with Rashada on his now-failed deal. The Gator Collective was consolidated into Florida Victorious, along with the more exclusive Gator Guard, which had required a $1 million contribution annually.
The university hopes the new NIL collective will bring the Gators back to their winning ways.
Florida was one of six Power Five programs (along with Boston College, Cal, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma and Stanford) to finish below .500 in both revenue-generating sports, football and men’s basketball.
Most alarming, the Gators endured consecutive losing seasons in football for the first time since 1978-79.
The nonprofit organization will work closely with the school’s University Athletic Association to raise money that should assist all 19 sports, but most notably football.
“The NIL space is constantly evolving around the country, and we’ve seen the impact of strong NIL programs,” Florida Victorious CEO Nate Barbera told The Associated Press. “And now it’s time for us to unify these efforts.”
Other schools, including Notre Dame, Ohio State, Texas and UCF, have made similar consolidating moves in recent months.
Ohio State’s two main foundations merged in February, and five Texas-driven collectives merged into a rebranded Texas One Fund in November.
The deal that fell through for the 19-year-old Rashada would have paid him nearly $14 million during his college career. The collective defaulted on the contract before Rashada stepped foot on campus, prompting the four-star signee from California to ask for his release. He ended up at Arizona State.
So far, the Rashada family has not filed a lawsuit against the Gator Collective seeking financial restitution. And the Gators have not heard from the NCAA regarding any potential investigation into what went wrong.
Florida Victorious, founded by Miami businessman and UF alum Jose Costa of horticultural grower Costa Farms, plans to raise money from the school’s 450,000 alumni. Membership options range from $15 to $250 a month, with more than 90% of revenues going to student-athletes. Offerings include exclusive content providing an inside look at the lives of student-athletes, unique memorabilia and one-of-a-kind experiences like a dinner with members of Florida’s 1996 national championship-winning team at Hall of Fame coach Steve Spurrier’s restaurant.
The collective has an advisory board that includes mega-donors Gary Condron and Hugh Hathcock as well as former UF quarterbacks Anthony Richardson and Danny Wuerffel, former Super Bowl winner Trey Burton, UF graduate and ESPN celebrity Laura Rutledge, and former basketball standout and current ESPN analyst Patric Young.
“We need to win on and off the field, and do it the right way,” Barbera said. “We’re building an organization that will make Gator Nation proud to support us.”